The Bike

The road to the Bosnian border
What I Wanted
The bike I wanted for this trip had to be simple, solid and reliable. And while I didn’t want an already assembled bike, I had never built a bike myself before. What I needed was a bike expert, patient enough to have me around while he worked on my bike. With this in mind I went at Guten Biken, a bike shop in Munich where I knew I would have found not only good mechanics, but also bike enthusiasts, as shown by all the parts they have in their magic cellar, a cellar they proudly show to most new costumers; the bi-annual BBQ they organize is an added bonus to all of this. They were more than happy to help me and luckily I went there during winter, when they are not too busy, so that there was even more time to discuss about parts and to teach me something, like how to build a wheel or how to grease a hub, two things that turned out very useful during this trip.

After more than 15000 km, some of which on very bad roads and with an amount of luggage much larger than the average (the first thing other cyclists notice about my bike is how much stuff I am bringing, but this might change soon), I can say that the bike is a perfect one for touring: simple, solid and reliable – exactly what I wanted.

What failed

I had some problems along the road, but they were mainly due to bad lack, like the wheel of a truck hitting my bike in Albania and bad parts found along the road. After the accident in Albania the back rim and the back derailleur had to be replaced.

The broken back rim
The broken back rim
Trying (unsuccessfully) to fix the freehub.

I replaced them in Tirana for some second-hand parts which looked reasonably good, surely the best I could find there. After 2000 km, in South-East Turkey the rim cracked on the side and I went back to Ankara to buy a very expensive Mavic XM 719. Another bad choice: I never liked the sensation I had when breaking, Mavic spokes are quite weak and the nipples, most of them half broken by now, have a weird size. In China, after around 10000 km, I found a big crack along the interior wall. I’m going to buy a new one very soon (I am actually surprised to see how many other cyclists have cracked Mavic rims. My idea is that they are good quality rims, but not adapt for touring). Also the derailleur I obtained in Tirana didn’t last long and it broke during my first day in Iran (but there it was also partially my fault). During the desert in Iran my Shimano freehub broke unexpectedly and without reason.

The broken freehub.
The broken freehub.

This is the only part of the original bike that actually broke. The mechanic that replaced it in Iran was surprised about this failure and said it probably was a faulty part and I should write to the Shimano customer service to complain, something I’ve never done. Apart from these failures I just did some ordinary maintenance: changed the brake pads, the chain (three times), the tyres (after 12000 km) and I should probably grease the hubs soon.

The full list

  • Steel Marin frame. It’s second hand, coming from an abandoned bike, but these steel frames don’t old that easily.
  • Steel fork found in the Guten Biken cellar.
  • Exal SP 19 front rim (36 holes, double walled and with double eyelets).
  • Shimano Deore XT hub (back and front).
  • 36 Sapim spokes coming in 3 different sizes (front).
  • Exal SP 19 back rim (36 holes, double walled and with double eyelets MAVIC XM 719 back rim(36 holes, double walled, security eyelets).
  • 36 Sapim spokes coming in 3 different sizes (back) 36 Mavic spokes, single size (260 cm) (back).
  • Schwalbe Marathon tyres 26×2.0.
  • Gearing systems 7-speed cassette with the lowest ring having 30 teeth (changed before leaving, I needed some more options when climbing) Shimano 9-speed cassette 11-34 (very good for steep climbs, maybe an 8 speed would be better because finding a chain for a 9 speed cassette is not always easy).
  • Shimano Dehore back derailleur.
  • Stronglight chainset with 3 rings (the smallest ring has only 22 teeth. It is really great for steep climb with a loaded bike, certainly it’s not ideal for making good speed).
  • Shimano Dehore LX front derailleur.
  • Stronglight headset.
  • Selle royal saddle (I’ll try a Brooks sooner or later).
  • Tubus rack. Back and front.

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